Results tagged ‘ Mike Rizzo ’
By Bill Ladson
NEW YORK — Before the last game of the season against the Mets, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo talked to the local media, but didn’t say whether he was going to dismiss manager Matt Williams and some of his coaching staff.
Rizzo said the process will begin once the team flies out of New York on Sunday evening. The meetings will start as early as Monday.
“We’ll make decisions sooner rather than later about personnel on the field, off the field and in the front office,” Rizzo said. “We are not going to let people twist in the wind. We want to make out decisions and move on.”
Entering Spring Training, the Nationals were expected to be World Series contenders, especially after they signed right-hander Max Scherzer to a seven-year $210 million contract. But the Nationals will finish in second place behind the Mets and not reach the postseason. It didn’t help the team was hit by injuries and didn’t have a productive bullpen.
“We are going to investigate all those things after the season when we do our postseason analytics on what went wrong,” Rizzo said. “Suffice to say, no one is more disappointed than I am about the way the season transpired.
“But I see a lot of positives that come out of the season. We’re playing extremely hard at the end of season, even with very little on the line. I credit that to a bunch of professional players and a coaching staff that really cares. We’ve seen a lot of good things happen with our young players, who have emerged. We are going to bring some positives out of it. We are not happy about what happened [this season] and we are disappointed in it.”
Two players who most likely will not be back with the Nationals are right-hander Jordan Zimmermann and shortstop Ian Desmond. Both are free agents after the season and not close to re-signing with Washington. Rizzo called them two of his favorite players.
“They mean the world to me,” Rizzo said. “Personally, I was one of the instrumental guys when we drafted Jordan Zimmermann. We signed him, developed him. We had the controversial shutdown to extend his career and he pitched admirably and unbelievably for us. He is close to my heart.
“Ian Desmond is the rock of the organization. When I became the GM, he became the everyday shortstop and blossomed into one of the best players in all of baseball. They are in the last year of their decision making years. It will be difficult both personally and professionally. But that’s baseball. On both sides, we have made attempts to put these guys under contract for extended period of time. It hasn’t worked out to this point. I never shut any doors about any players. If this is the last game both of them play for us, I will remember them fondly as two of my most favorite players I’ve ever been around.”
By Bill Ladson
WASHINGTON — Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo felt it was time to inject speed, youth and athleticism to the team and that’s why shortstop Trea Turner was called up to the big leagues Friday afternoon.
Rizzo called Turner “a contact bat with a lot of speed” and can play the middle infield spots. Rizzo warned that it may take a while for Turner to warm up to the big league level. While playing for Double A Harrisburg and Triple A Syracuse, for example, Turner got off to slow starts with the bat, but managed to get the batting average up to .300 in both places.
“We thought it was an opportune time to take advantage of his skills,” Rizzo said of Turner. … “We are not expecting him to be the savior of the offense or the savior of the ballclub. We just want him to do what he does best – add his skillset to Matt Williams’ arsenal of tools to win baseball games. We are not trying to develop at the big league level. We are just trying to win games and we are injecting players that we think have skillset that will help us win.”
The Nationals have 42 games left in the season and 27 of them will be at Nationals Park. Asked what improvements he would like to see from this point forward from his team, Rizzo said, “We are trying to win games. We are thinking one game at a time, we are playing with some urgency. … These guys are into it, they are hustling, they are playing hard. We know where we are at. We know what lies ahead of us. We have to play hard and try to win this game.”
By Andrew Simon
WASHINGTON — A little more than a year after the D-backs selected him in the ninth round of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, Zach Walters was shipped to the Nationals at the ‘11 Trade Deadline for veteran pitcher Jason Marquis.
Three years of development later, Walters turned out to be the piece Nats general manager Mike Rizzo needed to acquire infielder Asdrubal Cabrera from the Indians ahead of Thursday’s 4 p.m. ET Deadline. The move signaled how every deal — even those considered to be minor — can send ripples well out into the future.
“If there’s one thing we’ve shown here, it’s that there are no small trades,” Rizzo said. “All the trades are important to us. They can be characterized at the time you make them as a small deal, but sometimes the small deals turn into gold.”
Walters, then 21, had only 166 Class A games under his belt when Washington acquired him. In his new organization, he worked his way up the ladder, getting brief tastes of the Majors each of the past two seasons. This year, at 24, he was tearing up International League pitching at Triple-A Syracuse, hitting .300/.358/.608 with 38 extra-base hits, including 15 homers, while playing four different positions.
“He’s played well coming up in our Minor League system,” Rizzo said. “Our developers did a great job with him. We [traded for] him as a young A-ball player that was really kind of unproven, but our scouts recognized something in him.”
But Walters is not the only example Rizzo can point to of a “minor” trade paying significant dividends.
At the 2010 deadline, Rizzo shipped veteran infielder Christian Guzman to the Rangers for a pair of prospects, including right-hander Tanner Roark. It took Roark some time to blossom, but after a strong debut in ‘13, he’s posted a 2.74 ERA in 21 starts this season.
Including Cabrera, the Nats will have a 25-man roster that includes 10 players acquired via trade. They range from blockbusters like the Doug Fister deal this past winter to swaps that only became huge later, like a December 2007 exchange of young pitchers that netted the Nats Tyler Clippard, a staple of their bullpen for the past six years.
Follow Andrew Simon on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.
By Bill Ladson
WASHINGTON — Earlier this week, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said he did not anticipate making any trades or dramatic roster moves upon Bryce Harper’s return, which is expected sometime in July.
“These things usually have a way of taking care of themselves,” Rizzo said.
While the Nationals aren’t expected to make any significant moves, a baseball source said opposing teams are still inquiring about second baseman Danny Espinosa. But, as of now, the Nationals are not interested in trading him. The source said recently the Nationals still believe in Espinosa and predict he will be an All Star one day.
Espinosa is currently playing every day because of injuries to Harper and Ryan Zimmerman. It forced the team to switch Anthony Rendon from second base to third base and Espinosa from the bench to second base.
While Espinosa has been struggling at the plate, he continues to be a wizard with the glove. He has made only four errors in 66 games entering Friday’s action against the Braves. The Nationals are also looking at Espinosa as insurance in case something happened to shortstop Ian Desmond. The source pointed out there is no one on the Major League team or the Minor League system who could replace Desmond for a long period of time other than Espinosa.
While the Nationals are not looking to trade Ross Detwiler, the source said they would listen if there is any interest in the left-hander.
Detwiler hasn’t seen much action as a long reliever and is off to a start, allowing 16 earned runs in 29 innings. The source pointed out that Detwiler’s trade value is low because of the slow start and that he missed most of last season because of back issues.
If teams have interest in Detwiler, it would be as a starter. Detwiler best season came as a starter. In 2012, Detwiler was the fifth starter for Washington, winning 10 games with a respectable 3.40 ERA. Detwiler said recently he still sees himself as a starter.
“That’s where I’m most comfortable. You are able to get a routine down. You know when you are going to pitch,” Detwiler said. “I’m always a good routine person. It changed a little bit — how much you run, how much you lift. Through all that stuff between starts, that’s the biggest difference.”
It’s also looks like Adam LaRoche will be with the Nationals the entire season. There has been talk about putting Ryan Zimmerman at first base. But the source pointed out that LaRoche is not only having a productive season [.297, eight home runs and 35 RBIs entering Friday’s action], he is a good influence in the clubhouse.
LaRoche and the Nationals have a mutual option after this season, but there hasn’t been any talk about an extension, according to LaRoche.
By Andrew Simon
WASHINGTON — As a junior at Fresno State in 2005, Doug Fister not only pitched, but also started 26 games at first base.
Those days are long gone, but Fister’s inner infielder has never left him completely, and that showed during Thursday’s win over the Phillies.
Fister exhibited the all-around game that Nats general manager Mike Rizzo touted after he acquired him from the Tigers this winter. The right-hander threw seven solid innings to put his ERA at 2.23 over his past five starts, laid down a pair of sacrifice bunts at the plate and also made three difficult plays in the field.
With runners at first and third and one out in the first inning, Fister nearly helped complete an inning-ending double play. When first baseman Adam LaRoche fielded Ryan Howard’s ground ball and threw to second, Fister hustled to cover first, then used his entire 6-foot-8 frame to stretch for the return throw. He wound up catching the ball in a full split position, but the throw was a tiny bit too late.
“It kind of reverts back to playing first base in college,” Fister said. “Again, it’s part of being a pitcher. You’ve got to get over and cover, and it’s just something that comes natural to me, to get out there and stretch.”
Fister wasn’t too impressed with the play, even if it sparked some concern in others.
“I thought he blew out,” LaRoche said. “But he hopped up and was like, ‘No, I’m good,’ like nothing happened. I couldn’t do it.”
“That’s not comfortable,” manager Matt Williams said of watching the play.
For Fister or for him?
“For both,” Williams said. “He’s a good athlete though.
“He could play first base if he had to.”
In the third inning, Fister showed off another part of his skillset, one he said he hones by having someone smack fungos back at him to improve his reaction time.
Speedy leadoff man Ben Revere hit a ground ball to the third base side of the mound as Fister finished his delivery to the first base side. Fister was able to reach back and twist himself around to snare it and make the play. Then in the sixth, he pounced on Revere’s bunt to the first base side of the mound, scooped it up and tossed to first.
“For a guy that tall, he’s got great agility,” Williams said.
Fister would be a desirable pitcher if pitching were all he could do. But the six-year veteran has shown an ability to handle the bat, control the running game and field his position, and last year was a finalist for an American League Gold Glove Award.
“It’s something I take a lot of pride in and spend a lot of work on,” he said.
Follow Andrew Simon on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.
By Bill Ladson
WASHINGTON — The Nationals took a risk on an injured pitcher in the first round of the 2014 First-Year Player Draft, selecting UNLV right-hander Erick Fedde, who had Tommy John surgery this past Tuesday. One baseball source believes Fedde had the best stuff before he went down with the injury.
Before the surgery, Fedde had a great final season for UNLV, going 8-2 with a 1.76 ERA in 11 starts. He also had 82 strikeouts in 76 2/3 innings.
It marks the third consecutive year in which the Nationals have selected a pitcher in the first round of the Draft. The team selected Lucas Giolito and Jake Johansen in 2012 and ’13, respectively.
The Draft continues on Friday with Rounds 3-10. The MLB.com pregame show begins at 12:30p ET, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 3-10 beginning at 1p ET.
The Nationals are known to take a risk on players who are injured. Giolito and third baseman Anthony Rendon are two examples of players who were hurt before they were drafted. Rendon had shoulder and ankle problems before he was taken in 2010, and Giolito tore a ligament in his elbow before he was taken two years later.
Today, Rendon is among the team leaders in runs scored, hits and RBIs, and has a chance to participate in his first All-Star Game. Giolito has recovered from Tommy John surgery and is on an innings limit while pitching for Class A Hagerstown. He recorded a 2.29 ERA in eight starts.
How do the Nats balance the risk/reward when it comes to injured players?
“The upside has to really trump the risk of a player not coming back from an injury,” general manager Mike Rizzo said recently. “We really [consider] elbow injuries a lot more favorable than shoulder injuries. A lot that goes into it is the character of the player, the type of makeup that he has. The rehab process is not an easy one. You have [to have] the right character, right makeup to go through it and to come out the other end better than when you started.”
By Bill Ladson
WASHINGTON — Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo spoke to the local media at Saturday’s NatsFest and he acknowledged that the team had interest in reliever Grant Balfour, who recently signed a two-year, $12 million deal with the Rays. Rizzo said Balfour wanted to be closer to home .
“We thought there was a value there. I think sleeping in his own bed and being near his home over road what we were trying to get for him,” Rizzo said.
Had the Nationals acquired Balfour, they most likely would have traded reliever Drew Storen, who said he was not bothered by the trade rumors this offseason.
“You don’t take it personally, it part of it. It’s flattering that other teams want you, too,” Storen said. “You look at it from all angles. [The Nationals] are a great team. Obviously, I don’t want to go anywhere. It’s just part of the business. Nothing new.”
Meanwhile Rizzo hasn’t ruled out acquiring a backup catcher. The Nationals are looking for someone who can fill just in case the starter, Wilson Ramos, misses a lot of time because of injury.
“If a backup catcher fits what we are trying to do and becomes available, we would certainly look into it,” Rizzo said.
The Nationals are looking for a guy who can drive in runs. As of now, Sandy Leon, Jhonatan Solano, Chris Snyder are battling for the backup role. All were not impressive in the batter’s box last year.
General manager Mike Rizzo spoke to the local media Saturday and talked about Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard and the Nationals.
On why the Nationals sent Drew Storen to the Minors?
Rizzo: We felt that he was struggling, struggling with his mechanics, with his tempo with his delivery, with his arm slot, and we felt that we would do him better by letting him go down in a less stressful situation, work on his mechanics, get it fixed and get back up here and help us.
What Storen needs to do to get back to the Major Leagues?:
Rizzo: I think he needs to … I think it’s a mechanical situation to where he needs to revert back to where he was when we drafted him, where he was in ’11, but mechanically and tempo-wise and arm slot and everything, clear his mind, come back with a fresh, clear mind and be able to help us.
How did Storen take the news?
Rizzo: He took it hard like a lot of guys that have established themselves in the big leagues take it. I had a long conversation with him today and it was a very good conversation. I explained to him our rationale for it and that he’s a huge part of this organization and he’s going to be for a long time and just need to get him right. It’s very difficult, especially for a reliever, to tweak your delivery and get your delivery back in sync when you’re in a competitive situation at the big league level trying to win games. We feel that sending him down there, getting him in a less stressful situation, getting him with Spin Williams and Greg Booker, who’ve had him before, had him when he’s been extremely successful, I think it will benefit him.
“I think that he’s performed admirably in ’11, he hurt his arm in ’12 and had surgery. He was slow to recover from that and come back from that, and this year, I think that he was at a point where his arm was finally back to health and his mechanics went away from him. He has to get back to what made him successful – leveraging the baseball downhill, getting movement on his stuff and commanding the baseball much better. To me, the velocity is back to where it was pre-injury, pre-surgery, and now he needs to get back to the deliver, the tempo and the command of the stuff.
Did Rafael Soriano affect Storen mentally?
Rizzo: When you add a player like Rafael Soriano, we felt like we were strengthening a strength. We feel that we had a shutdown back-of-the-game bullpen that would shorten the games for our starters. We felt like that would give us great depth. All the things that we talked about at the beginning of the season. There’s been a lot of closers that started off as set-up guys and the case was we had three guys who had closer’s experience that we felt could finish off games and we felt the back-end of the bullpen was as good as anybody’s.
Please answer the question. Did it affect Storen mentally?
Rizzo: I don’t see the reason why it should’ve. He’s a mentally-strong person with good stuff and a guy that we’re getting an established closer with a great track record and we felt there was another guy that added depth and power to the end of the bullpen.
What was your reaction to Clippard’s comments?
Rizzo: I talked to Clip also, and we’ve got an open-door policy here. His opinion means a lot to me. I disagree with his assessment of the situation, but you fight to the death to let them speak their mind and say what they want. And that’s what makes these guys what they are on the mound. You’ve got to have a certain type of attitude and makeup to pitch in the latter-end of these games. They’re a competitive bunch, and the one thing I’ve never shied away from is when we have a discussion, we have it man-to-man, eye-to-eye, and I certainly can take his opinion. Like I said, I don’t agree with it, but I commend him for having a strong opinion on it.
Did you decide to send Storen down before the doubleheader?
Rizzo: We made it before. We knew we were going to have to make a roster move after the 26th man and we felt that with his struggles with his delivery and that type of thing, that we were going to give him this opportunity to go back to the minors and figure things out.
Are you looking for a starting pitcher before the deadline?
Rizzo: Well you know we’ve got a lot of trade discussions. We’ve received calls, we’ve made calls. I’m not going to go much more into it than that other than we’re going to do what we do at every trade deadline. We’re going to try to improve this ballclub for 2013 and beyond.
What are the areas of improvement?
Rizzo: You can just press your recorder on this, it’s the same assessment that we’ve had for the last month or so. We feel good about our core players and we feel that we’re solid at our position players, we like our rotation, we like our bullpen arms. If we could tweak or improve certain spots on the bench, I think that would be one place that we would attack. But we’ve got ourselves a pretty talented group of guys that we’re committed to and we like where we’re at.
Is there more weight on next year or this year?
Rizzo: Well we’re going to stay consistent with the same thought process we’ve had since 2009. We’re always worried about this year and beyond. We never make decisions based on the current season alone, so that hasn’t changed since I’ve taken over as GM. We’re always thinking about this year, improving ourselves this year, but when we improve ourselves this year it will be this year and beyond.
On Taylor Jordan’s innings limit
Rizzo: Well, we’ve got parameters in mind for Taylor Jordan and when we feel that he’s done pitching, we’re going to shut him down.
Are you committed to all eight starting position players?
We’ve got a good core of position players, starting rotation and bullpen, and we’re committed to 25 guys right now. We’ve got a good, young core of players and we’re committed to them.
Are you planning any splashy moves?
Rizzo: I still feel the same way. Like I said, things haven’t changed since we spoke on the trade deadline last and things haven’t changed.
Why are the Nationals inconsistent?
Rizzo: We’re in the midst of trying to assess that. I think we still have two months to figure it out and we’ll assess it throughout the rest of the season and come up with a battle plan in the offseason to try and remedy that. We still have a lot of baseball left, and we’re looking forward to that and like I said, I still like this ballclub. I still believe in it.
What is your relationship with Davey Johnson?
Rizzo: I think it’s great. I love Davey and respect him, and I think he feels the same way.
On Ross Ohlendorf in the fifth spot of the rotation.
Rizzo: Yeah, he’s certainly an option for us in the rotation.
What the story on Christian Garcia?
Rizzo: Yeah, he’s rehabbing his hamstring injury.
Is Garcia out for a while?
Rizzo: Well, no. We’re planning on him being able to pitch sometime this year. I don’t know exactly where he’s at with his rehab, but certainly the hamstring set him back because he was just about ready to be activated off the DL.
Is there any chance Davey won’t be the manager by the end of the season?
Rizzo: There is no chance that he won’t be the manager until the end of the season.
What do you think of Randy Knorr?
Rizzo: Well Randy is a guy that I’ve had great respect for a long time. I think that he’s certainly a manager-caliber, he’s a manager candidate and he has a lot of manager capabilities and we love having him on the staff.
Will Knorr be considered the next manager?
Rizzo: He’s certainly a manager-caliber bench coach at this point.
What are the plans for Jordan in 2014?
Rizzo: Well I think he’s going to get every opportunity to be in the mix for the rotation next year, certainly. He’s pitched extremely well, I like his stuff, I like his demeanor on the mound, he shows poise of a major league pitcher and has the stuff for it.
Are you surprised by what Jordan has done in the big leagues?
Rizzo: No, I’m not surprised at all. We knew what we had with him, that’s why we got his feet wet in some major league spring training games this spring, and he was a guy we liked extremely a lot out of the draft and then of course got sidetracked by that injury.
With the non-waiver Trade Deadline coming up on July 31, general manager Mike Rizzo said the Nationals’ top priority is getting outfielder Bryce Harper and catcher Wilson Ramos healthy and contributing to the offense, which is one of the lowest scoring in the Major Leagues.
Harper, who is on a rehab assignment with Class A Potomac, is expected to rejoin the Nationals next week against the Brewers. Ramos is close to a rehab assignment, according to manager Davey Johnson.
“We would like to see a big left-handed bat. His name is Harper and he is on the horizon,” Rizzo said. “And we would like to get a hitting catcher named Ramos. He is on the horizon. And [we really want to] gauge and see what a fully healthy lineup looks like. Two of our main cogs have been out for an extended period. We haven’t had our lineup together since April 14. So we are getting players more and more healthy.
“Hopefully, everyone will be healthy at the same time. We’ll see what the lineup can do when we have all our players playing and everyone is starting to hit on all cylinders — really gauge where we are at.”
With right-hander Dan Haren on the 15-day disabled list, will the Nationals look for another starting pitcher before the deadline? Rizzo said the right-hander has to get healthy first.
“First of all, we have to get him healthy and see where he is at and we’ll evaluate a healthy Dan Haren and make our decision from there,” Rizzo said. “Like any other part of the roster, we want to see him at 100 percent, and I would gauge where we are at from there.”